Electric Guitars in Worship

By Chris Lang
This is one of those questions that I think we always dread being asked! I have been asked it on more than one occasion, and have sometimes struggled to give a decent answer. If you are part of a more traditional church, this may be something that you’ve struggled with on many occasions. However, I believe it’s an important question that we need to address ourselves, as electric guitar players within a worship context, so that we actually know why we’re there! Thinking over this question has revolutionised the way I think about playing, and the attitude I have when I play.

We need to ask ourselves ‘what is worship all about?’ Worship is about brining glory to God, it’s about offering up our lives to him, it’s about meeting with God, it’s about lives changing. It’s not about music. Music is something that we use to aid our worship. If we ever place guitars above meeting with God, we need to check our priorities. I believe there are 4 main reasons why electric guitars can really bring something special to our worship. Of course, these can be applied to any instrument, and they’re not the only reasons.

1. In touch with Culture
Traditionally, churches used classical music to accompany their worship. That’s because this was the type of music that people could connect with. In fact, Christian composers like Bach were some of the greatest composers of their time. Nowadays, people connect more with modern music styles, so we should be aiming to be leading the way in the contemporary music scene in the Church to engage the congregation. Similarly, Paul writes in 1 Cor 9:22 that “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”, and we can frame timeless Biblical principles in the modern day context as a vehicle to get the message across more effectively, without compromising our morals and stumbling others, of course.


2. Biblical parallels
In the Bible we read about temples where hundreds of musicians would give glory to God with their music. It’s not just singing that is our act of worship, but it’s the act of playing our instruments too which conveys our worship to God.

“All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:

"He is good;
his love endures forever."
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God.”
(2 Chronicles 5:12-14)

I love thinking about this picture of the worshippers in the temple. It must have been awesome to witness. I think we can aim for something similar today!

3. The gift of music
The gift of music is, I believe, one of the most beautiful that our creator has given us. Music is the sound of victory. It’s heavenly. When God invented music he didn’t intend for it to be monotonous. He made harmonies, melodies, harmonics, dynamics, and different timbres. Music is diverse, it’s creative, and it’s exciting. God has given us different gifts for different instruments and different types of music that we can use to give him glory.

4. Aiming for excellence
Psalm 33 tells us to play skilfully and to sing joyfully – we should aim to give God the best of what we’ve got. By giving God the best of what we have, we glorify him and show him that we love him.
“Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skilfully, and shout for joy.”
(Psalm 33:1-3)

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

well, in my opinion, it depends on the person playing the electric guitar. I occasionally lead a worship band and I tend to prefer some guitarists then others. its not because of the skill level, but the attitudes of the guitarist. I fell that some guitarists think worship is a concert and try to show to others that they are the ones to be focused on during worships, not God. I love having an electric guitar in worships, but in the world today, the attitudes of some guitarists make worshiping a rock show, not a prayer.

but thats my input.

Justin said...

Absolutely, the heart and attitude of the person is far more important than the skill of the person, however at the same time you can't have someone with all heart and no skill on stage either. Having a guitarist, or anyone, on stage without the right heart could be detrmental and rather not have the person than have a non-worshipper there. Being led by the Holy Spirit in worship is vital. The Holy Spirit can make you play better, like help you to play something perfect where as before you were struggling with it, but he can only do things in you that you are working for and capable of.

BrYcYcLe said...

i am from a church that has split into to church, old ppls and youth and the old pplz are constantly picking at our styles of worship but i 100% agree with u.

i find some songs are to heavy and cause the worshipers to listen to the show not join in worship. but in all its ok to get excited about praising!

Jonathan said...

I would just like to say to the "Anonymous" guy up there that he should not judge someone so harshly. When you say that you feel that way, it is just that. YOU feel that way. You should try talking to the instrumentalist and ask him or her why they are playing, is it for themselves or for God?

If you feel that they are playing a song a certain way that just doesn't fit in, then you should really talk to them and give them some "constructive" criticism.

You should not allow your emotions to let you choose who should be on the team or not. After all, your feelings could very well be corrupted.

CrystalRiver said...

Jonathan ...

I agree that emotions should not rule us as we seek out guitarists. But we are leaders, and on leaders, God demands a higher level of accountability.

Psalm 51 tells us ...
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

That's saying very clearly ... God doesn't care so much about my skill or virtuosity, but about the heart that's delivering it. And He knows the difference ... "O God, you will not despise" implies that there IS such a thing as unacceptable worship in God's eyes, namely worship from a heart that isn't fully His. It's up to us as leaders to teach this to our fellow band mates.

Anonymous said...

thats good man,

i've been playing for about three months and when i started to really get into electric guitar all i wanted was to play the solos in front of my whole youth church. i didn't really appreciate how many countless hours were spent just practicing. Now i have prayed about this, and i feel that most of this pride has gone away, and i have really grasped that electric guitars in my case are supposed to be for worship and blessing God. And i also have less of a desire to play the nice instrumentals and have everyone look at me. I know this has come from God and my prayer from him. and by the way i agree with what BrYcYcLe said about getting people excited about worship, but don't get caught up in your own attention. as electric guitarists there needs to be a balance with the intricate guitar things and just dialing down.

Jakesta said...

Indeed, what you all say is true. I believe that the ideal guitarist plays skillfully, but at the same time knows how to be quiet, and let God move. Rather than playing an awesome lick and distracting everyone from that place of worship.

Songs Of Worship, Joy & Praise said...

Both Bach and Beethoven were Christians and two of the most influential musicians in history.
In fact when you consider the fact at how they wrote music they were light years ahead of everyone in there era.
The scale runs that Bach created in his classical music could still revival many of the worlds great jazz guitarist.
The reason I say that is he wrote what could be considered lead scales into his classical songs.
But this is long before guitarist had jam sessions.....these two guys invented modern music even though we still call it classical.
Today artist need CD and tape recorders and all sorts of machines to figure out the timing on fast riffs and ect.....but these guys did it first in their heads !!
I myself write a lot of rock-jazz and classical music...I don't use and recording tools to write with....but I know many people who do.
I only record in studios after my songs are finished.....yet that's not how it's done much these days with computers and ect....

Anyways...I myself am a some what well known Christian Guitarist, I play both Electric and acoustic and Rock,Jazz,Blues and Classical...I studied in college for years and I write and sell music world wide.
But I must say.....Bach and Beethoven are amazing writers of music when you consider how advanced we are today...compared to them. I offen wonder how great they'd be today...but what does it matter?....
They are more famous today.....than ever before..... They are what legends are made of....They were Christians !!

Anyways if you get a chance come by my website and say hello !!
Thanks GW Williams
Songs Of Worship on Acoustic Guitar

Songs Of Worship, Joy & Praise said...

Both Bach and Beethoven were Christians and two of the most influential musicians in history.
In fact when you consider the fact at how they wrote music they were light years ahead of everyone in there era.
The scale runs that Bach created in his classical music could still revival many of the worlds great jazz guitarist.
The reason I say that is he wrote what could be considered lead scales into his classical songs.
But this is long before guitarist had jam sessions.....these two guys invented modern music even though we still call it classical.
Today artist need CD and tape recorders and all sorts of machines to figure out the timing on fast riffs and ect.....but these guys did it first in their heads !!
I myself write a lot of rock-jazz and classical music...I don't use and recording tools to write with....but I know many people who do.
I only record in studios after my songs are finished.....yet that's not how it's done much these days with computers and ect....

Anyways...I myself am a some what well known Christian Guitarist, I play both Electric and acoustic and Rock,Jazz,Blues and Classical...I studied in college for years and I write and sell music world wide.
But I must say.....Bach and Beethoven are amazing writers of music when you consider how advanced we are today...compared to them. I offen wonder how great they'd be today...but what does it matter?....
They are more famous today.....than ever before..... They are what legends are made of....They were Christians !!

Anyways if you get a chance come by my website and say hello !!
Thanks GW Williams
Songs Of Worship on Acoustic Guitar

Greg Antoni said...

the levites in the old testament were so much trained. 10 years of training before they could play inside the tabernacle. that's why we should play skillfully.. this is for God not for men, so we give our best. best that we could give. not destroying the music we play. talent and skill matters too. if its not then why are they trained so much? lets do the perfect music for the perfect GOd!

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Amanda cannon said...

i do not agree. The service is to be focused on God (as you said in the begining) So we should not have worldly things in the church, it is a place away from all that sin and the world.

Steve said...

Well in my opinion it all depends on the guitarist's heart and motive... Let me use this illustration.. If a person was about to be eaten by a lion and someone has just given you a gun... What do you think is the right thing to do? Of course to kill the lion... You see it really depends on how you use something... A gun is neither good or bad it depends who uses it. If a criminal uses it then its bad, but if a guy who uses it to save someone then its ok... Same thing with the guitar and other stuff.... Just saying what I think is right...

Daniel the Rock Guitarist said...

I'm an electric guitar player. Last sunday I actually used a phaser in my playing and I got scolded by my parents in the end only for adding that effect. My friends in church thought it was cool so I used it. But I didn't consider about the rest of the congregation. True. We are there to worship God, not to blast everyone's ears off. Hence the music we play must be something everyone there can accept. Not everyone there can handle rock music so we should also be sensitive to others. This is a constant struggle for Christian rock guitarists like me. Thx Chris. It helped a lot.